Genre snobbery is a bitch

 

thoughts orangutan

I feel like it’s a becoming a biannual tradition for me to point out “sorry, you don’t get to dictate taste”. Sadly, there’s a reason this keeps coming up: every so often a member of the literati pokes their head above the parapet to denigrate genre fiction. Today’s “inspiration” is a famous literary fiction author who decided to give genre fiction a go, only to (rather hilariously) state they don’t like that particular genre… cos that makes sense. Now, without naming names, this is almost part of the course for literary fiction writer’s foray into genre fiction- they assert “but I’m not a genre fiction writer” in the same way one might say “I’m not a prostitute”. Well, as a genre whore, I take offence to this kind of language 😉 Aside from the blatant hypocrisy, I don’t think genre snobs have quite thought this through…

spaceFor starters, there is unfrickin-believable-out-of-this-world genre fiction. One of the funniest parts of this person’s argument was that they didn’t think that genre fiction explored humanity with any depth- LOL! Clearly, they’ve never read genre fiction cos there are *far too many* examples for me to list. The crux of this criticism is that they seem to think you can’t simultaneously write well and develop your world building- which is about as logical as saying you can’t eat a banana and ice cream at the same time 😉 The two are not mutually exclusive (in fact they go together rather well). So, if you’re going to judge a book by its cover, the joke’s on you. Especially because…

the greatest of all timeToday’s “genre fiction” could easily be tomorrow’s classic. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but realism doesn’t always win out in the end or make it into the canon. And some genres (romance novels, gothic literature, even fantasy etc) do better than you think. Literary fiction stands the same chance of going down in history as one of the “greats” (regardless of whether the publisher slaps “modern classic” on the back or not).

you're not wrongThe customer may not always be right… but they’re not wrong! Let’s be real: you can’t be wrong about your own taste. Not only that, but most readers read genre fiction. The idea of going after the consumer is becoming increasingly popular- yet it doesn’t make it any less futile. A word to the wise- no one will be convinced to pick up your book just cos you said they shouldn’t pick up some other person’s book (in fact there’s a strong chance of reverse-psychology-ing them into picking up the one you told them to avoid).

party on dudesPlus, us genre sluts are having a lot more fun than the genre prudes. We’re not tied down by immature “you need to grow up” arguments levelled at adult YA readers; we’re not threatened by a bit of flirtation with genre bending books. We just dive straight into the whorehouse of endless tastes- otherwise known as every bookshop/library/personal collection ever- and glut ourselves on whatever’s on offer. Gotta say it’s liberating to let go of your inhibitions and just join the party. Don’t be shy, you know you want to 😉

Im outThat said, if you’re still taking yourself too seriously after that analogy, I have one last truthbomb to drop: no one is the GOD EMPEROR OVERLORD of taste. No one’s taste is infallible; no one gets to act like an authoritarian hack when it comes to literature. And I’m not gonna apologise if that’s hurt any egomaniac’s feelings for saying that. I’d say “anyone who truly believes that they know best about what people should be reading needs to take a long hard look in the mirror”, but that’s probably what they do all day. I’m sure their hand is sore from patting themselves on the back 24/7. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t have much time for anyone who thinks like this anymore 😉

And with that, I’d like to ask you guys what you think of genre snobbery? And are you a genre whore like me? Let me know in the comments!

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Addressing “Entitled” Fans

 

thoughts orangutan

Am I the only one that thinks this whole “entitled fans” debate is getting old already? For those of you who haven’t seen this phrase bandied about, well first of all lucky you, and second of all it’s basically becoming a catch-all phrase to describe disgruntled fans. A couple of years ago it was used to describe Star Wars fans for not lapping up the trash that was The Last Jedi; more recently it’s been dug up again to sling at those of us who are unhappy with the ending of Game of Thrones (more specifically for a petition that I don’t feel the need to go into cos it’s much the same as any other petition on the planet).

A lot of the time, this argument seems to be a way to shut down criticism- which is never a good look for a creator. Aside from the fact it often seems like people with MASSIVE platforms going after the little guy, let’s just say throwing your weight around shouting “HOW DARE YOU CRITICISE ME FOOLISH MORTAL” makes something else seem a little bit inflated… 😉

That said, the creator isn’t necessarily wrong for standing up for themselves. After all, if they had a vision for their work and the audience doesn’t like it, that’s not their fault, right? And harassing the author/creator/whatever isn’t okay. No matter how much we might love something, we don’t have ownership of it. And in the words of Mick Jagger:

you can't always get what you want

So, I actually do get that a creator really shouldn’t have to do what their audience wants. That’s why I say REVIEWS ARE FOR READERS– they’re made after the fact and aren’t designed to make the author change their ways. Still, while it may be true that “art is not a democracy”, it doesn’t then follow that “ergo I never have to listen to criticism”. Nor is “I don’t have to listen to you because you’re just a fan” a great argument. Because here’s a little secret: FANS WANT THE PROPERTIES THEY LOVE TO SUCCEED. That’s why they’ve poured their time/money/hearts/souls into these projects. And to forget that is to forget what made success possible.

This is particularly significant when looking at modern, commercial art. When we’re talking about huge franchises like Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Harry Potter etc, we’re not talking about its creation in a vacuum. These hugely successful properties owe more than a little to their fans. The fact is, shows/movies/books even are being treated more like products; likewise, creators have been willing to treat fans more like customers. And that’s fine- but then it doesn’t stand for writers/producers to still say “it’s art, we can do whatever we want!” Because you can’t expect to act that way when taking people’s money AND get no complaints if you miss-market said product. As a fan, I might be more forgiving if things don’t pan out exactly as I want; as a customer, I won’t be as happy. For instance, if I go into a restaurant and order pizza and you give me ice cream, I’m not going to be happy (no matter how much I love both). Customers rarely want subverted expectations. Which brings me onto one of the biggest areas of debate…

elephants game of thronesNow, here’s the thing: subverted expectations aren’t always a bad thing. Game of Thrones in particular was known for it- and known for doing it well. There are times when I wish the creator had gone the unexpected route. And some art exists in that beautifully comedic and meaningful sphere where art breaks all the rules. Some of my favourite works exist in this bubble: Guards, Guards, Carry On and even the Alan Partridge books! Fans don’t always want to be serviced, if you know what I mean 😉 But, in the case of the elephant (or lack thereof) in the room/Seven Kingdoms, trying a bold manoeuvre like subverting expectations has to be well executed.

Funnily enough, a lot of criticism like this is actually fairly technical. Mary Sues, subverted expectations, fanservice are all terms that existed for a long time- and yet they’re being brushed aside for causing “offence”. Ironically, this feeds into the idea that there is a right and wrong reason to criticise art nowadays (or to criticise criticism). With call out culture waiting in the wings, (often verified) journalists are able to rile people up and simultaneously forbid regular consumers from questioning creative “genius”. This doesn’t seem like they have the audience’s best interests at heart: it seems like thinly veiled elitism, pulling up the drawbridge and gatekeeping competition.

That could just be my sceptical brain going into overdrive though 😉 To be on the safe side, let’s just engage in honest discussions, not resort to stifling conversations by throwing around ad hominems and stop calling fans “entitled” for voicing opinions.

So, what do you think of the “entitled fans” debate? Do you think fans go to far? How do you think creators should respond? Let me know in the comments!

Misconceptions of Negative Reviews

 

thoughts orangutan

A few weeks ago, I saw something that has become the norm online: a famous author (who shall remain unnamed) saying why people shouldn’t write negative reviews. Now, not only is *criticising criticism pretty hypocritical*, it also comes across as someone with a fair amount of power trying to stifle conversation- and let’s just say I don’t approve. But going beyond this individual’s fame and success, there are a lot of people who hold similar views. Personally, I don’t have a problem with people choosing to only do positive reviews, but I think negative reviews get a bad rap. Sometimes I just think people don’t understand why people do them and assume motives that aren’t there. So, I thought I’d break down where I reckon these misconceptions are coming from:

meanMisconception #1: Critical reviewers are MEAN. Well, that could be true, who knows? 😉 Just kidding- I think this assumption is reading wayyy too much into things. Beyond the fact it’s probably not a good idea to psychoanalyse strangers on the internet, I also think that it’s not taking into consideration that people are different and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some reviewers are blunter than others, some are snarkier, some are funnier- because that’s their personality. Not to go all Big Five Personality on y’all, but (and I can’t believe I have to point this out) being more agreeable (for instance) doesn’t make you inherently a better person. For goodness sakes- you don’t have to like everyone’s way of doing things, yet I think we can all agree that how you review isn’t the next Great Moral Debate!

the devil hocus pocusMisconception #2: We want to upset authors. Also known as the “reviews are meant to help you improve” idea. Ermmm no. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: reviews are for READERS! That means whether the review is positive or negative, it’s not designed for the author. Frankly, I’m too shy to @ authors when I’m being entirely positive- but I definitely would never do that if I had even a smidge of criticism there.

never happyMisconception #3: We’re hard to please… okay this one is totally possible. And I did see a really great video about critical reviews, which suggested there’s a possibility you’re reading the wrong books for you 😉 HOWEVER, while this could be true, most reviewers will have a mixed bag. I know I do. And the thing is, even positive reviews can hold criticism- which leads me onto…

throw booksMisconception #4: We don’t love books. Pahahaha- so because we don’t like your book, we can’t like any books?! I mean, this is just plain silly. Why dedicate hours and hours to a passion if we secretly don’t like it? Really though, this feeds into the idea that we can read *everything* *all the time*- which is daft. Encouraging people to read endlessly is preposterous. So much so that even positive reviews should point out the downsides- and vice versa. For instance, while some people are put off by slow books, I’ll be perfectly happy to give it a try. Even when I’m gushing, I don’t aim for mindless POSITIVITY- for me it’s primarily about getting people to be able to find the right book for them. Sure, this isn’t always possible, but it’s worth a try!

stop reading

Almost didn’t put this meme in cos it personally offends me!

Misconception #5: Negative reviews are to stop you reading! Again, negative reviews are often pretty nuanced. They’re written to explain why someone may/may not want to read something; they’re not explicitly designed to deprive other people of pleasure. A great review helps readers make informed decisions (see above about not having the time to read everything ever written). BTW people who read reviews also aren’t braindead- *SHOCKER* readers are smart and can make up their own minds whether to trust the reviewer thank-you-very-much! As someone who watched and read reviews long before I got into doing it myself, I think it’s safe to say I know how to read a review without losing my sense of self. It’s quite possible to see a negative review and say “I’m going to read it anyway!” Which brings me onto…

im-right-youre-wrongMisconception #6: We think WHAT WE SAY GOES! We’re not gods or always right (that’s why I did a post about how not to review). Reviews are biased, they’re not objective. You don’t have to listen to them all the time and you can come away thinking something completely different.

Misconception #7: We’re playing 4D chess… Cos right now there is this idea that you will get ALL THE VIEWS if you get a little snarky. While I don’t deny this can be the case for some people, I’d say I have the same stats on negative and positive pieces. Plus, this is a good opportunity to come full circle in the piece and say PEOPLE ARE A BIT MORE COMPLEX THAN THAT. You can’t just bottle up people’s reasons for doing things in simple “oh they’re just looking for attention” terms. I for one didn’t start my blog for just one reason (and I can tell you when I started attention wasn’t even a remote possibility on my radar). So I think it’s time to finish off my piece with some age old wisdom:

when you assume

And with that I’d like to know what you think- do you reckon people have misconceptions about negative reviews? Or do you think any of these are spot on? Let me know in the comments!

Rocking the rainy day reads!

 

orangutan in rain umbrella

Look at me being all British, talking about the weather. And for a whole post as well- you’re in for a real treat 😉 Obviously cos I’m a Brit, when the topic of “rainy day reads” came up for Top Ten Tuesday, I thought it was excellent timing: it’s Spring. In England. Need I say more?

I also noticed that it was really cool how everyone’s answers seemed as changeable as the weather. Which makes sense- what makes one person feel cosy won’t work for another. And I was struck, as if by lightning, how great it is that we can all show off our varied tastes in this way. So, I decided to throw my brolly into the ring and share some of the things I like to read on a rainy day:

(yes I am not-so-sneakily doing this meme weeks late and on the wrong day 😉 )

LONNNNG BOOKS

war and peace

It seems like a good time to catch up on my reading, so maybe it’s time to tackle one of those hefty tomes!

Immersive Reads

six of crows duology

Otherwise, I like the books that really transport me to other worlds, that build a picture from scratch, that take me to far off and well imagined lands.

Long AND Immersive Books

mistborn series

Of course there are lots of books that fulfil both of those categories really nicely.

Something to reflect the GLOOM

wicked deep

On a rainy day, I really like the books that bring a level of *atmosphere* to the table.

***SUSPENSE***

rebecca

If I can’t go outside, I want something that’s really going to capture my attention and keep me glued to the page.

Urban Fantasy/Magical Realism

raven boys

This is another genre full of atmosphere and cool world building- and I especially love that feeling of being connected to the real world, while dipping my toes into fantasy.

Creepy worlds (especially dystopias)

hunger games

When the weather is grim, it seems like a good time to delve deeper in to dark recesses of the human mind… or I could go for something totally different like:

All the classics!

jane eyre

I don’t know why, but classics give me a cosy feel. Maybe it’s connecting to a time gone by or maybe it’s the abundance of pathetic fallacy in books like Jane Eyre 😉

Rereads

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_Cover

Nothing says cosy to me like a beloved book I’ve read so many times the pages are falling out! Perfect for feeling all warm inside!

So what about you- what’s your rainy day read? Long books, short books, or the random ramblings of a monkey? 😉 Let me know whatever you’re thinking in the comments!

Shelving Projects

 

am writing

So, this year I was *supposed* to be using April’s Camp Nano to keep on top of my editing plans… and despite my workload doubling (haha what even is life anymore) I’ve somehow been edging closer to the end. Which has made me pretty reflective. Most notably, I’ve been thinking about the *terrifying prospect of shelving projects*.

No, I’m not shelving my current #overlyambitiousWIP, though I might put it on pause to deal with life stuff- but I figured as I’m in one of those typical writerly moods of what-am-I-even-doing? it was as good a time as any to get this off my chest. Frankly my thoughts on #overlyambitiousWIP often range from “I hope it’s okay?” to “arghhh what have I just done?!!?” (and that’s with censoring some of the *darker* “throw it on a bonfire” thoughts… although I guess I just told you 😉) Yet, even though 99% of the time I want to hide under my bed from that wicked writing beast, I do think there is a massive difference between general my-writing-sucks-anxiety and deciding to shelve a project.

Let’s go back in time, to when I was a wee monkey teen, and wrote my first novel… and then I wrote another… completing what I thought was going to be my #dreadedduology debut… E-x-c-e-p-t  that is a very misleading way to put it- cos I was never happy with that work and consequently didn’t think I’d ever be ready to send it off into the world (I just like the alliteration now 😉 ). I mean I edited them over and over and over again… yet something didn’t sit quite right. There were flaws *obviously*- because I was young and inexperienced (but also cos a lot of first books suck tbh and if they don’t I am in AWE).

And I’d like to say it was this that led me to put it aside. My perfectionist brain certainly wasn’t satisfied with what I’d produced- however ultimately there was another glaring issue that made me finally give up on ever feeling ready to query it or self-pub or beg friends to give it a go… it was that I lost the passion I had for it. And if I was no longer excited by it, how could I sell it to someone else? As painful as that realisation was, it was freeing to admit I’d fallen out of love with it and I felt like I had permission to let go of a project I just wasn’t feeling anymore.

Now, years on, I’m actually happy I didn’t share my earlier work. Because here’s the thing- even though a lot of us fret about the rush to publication before we reach adulthood, the reality is super young authors are outliers and there’s nothing wrong or strange or unusual about being a bit older in this space. And sometimes you’ll look back on your old work and think *phew, thank goodness that’s not floating out in the world*.

What I like to take away from all this is that it’s never a waste. Of course, there’s the fact that shelving a project isn’t necessarily forever, but more importantly, I learnt so much from the process. I feel like I should have figured this out earlier, cos I wrote a fairy telling just for practice/fun/to stretch my brain. Knowing I was never gonna share this novella not only made it easier to write in a slump, I also felt I had the freedom to make mistakes and get feedback on something I didn’t feel was my-heart-and-soul (let’s be real, we see most of our book babies that way). But somehow, it took shelving something to really take the pressure off. I realised there was a huge difference between my work then and my work now- and that the decision to abandon my old work marked a greater shift. It meant acknowledging a need to work harder, a desire to get better and at least enough self-awareness to admit when something is not *there* yet (which hopefully will help me improve!)

And thanks to that, I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to my writing. I know I can fail and try again; I see the difference between trying to push for something I don’t love and persevering with something I believe in. After all, when it comes to those moments of self-doubt, I like to think of something Stan Lee said:

stan lee quote.png

For that reason, no matter how long it takes, no matter how often I’m derailed, no matter how much I sometimes question it, I’ll keep striving to finish my #overlyambitiousWIP… until the next time I have a freakout and worry it’s not good enough 😉

Hope you didn’t mind a slightly more rambly post! Now I’m wondering have you ever shelved a project? Do you agree or disagree with me here? Let me know in the comments!

Bloggers are Underrated

thoughts orangutan

Obviously, I’m biased, but here’s the thing: I’m not wrong 😉 Nowadays, it feels like bloggers are low hanging fruit, and everyone wants a piece. I barely go a week without seeing some disparaging comment about “what even is the point of bloggers” or “who even cares about bloggers” annnd I’m here to correct those assumptions- cos as a point of fact, bloggers are underrated. Here’s why:

book love belleEndless enthusiasm for books! Whether it’s in reviews/lists/discussions, bloggers have a way of creating continuous exposure and forming intense fandoms. Blogs are the perfect place to create superfans- which is why I believe some books with strong connections to the blogosphere have the power to do so well.

merlin books sharingCos, frankly, blogs are a brilliant place to cultivate organic interest. It’s not just that blogs have the ability to spread a book far and wide (and oh boy they do- a few book bloggers raving can get a book to spread like wildfire), blogs also manage to make that spread feel less like hype sometimes and more like fans sharing art. Which brings me onto…

book loveThe blogosphere is a wonderful place for readers! You can get some genuine advice on what to read and rave directly with someone else has loved a book. Feedback is super easy to get and real conversation is up for grabs. This is largely thanks to how interactive the blogosphere is, but also because…

friends hugThe community side is so strong. I personally believe it’s one of the more intimate platforms, with a greater connection to other readers and more meaningful engagement. This isn’t to disparage any other platform, cos everywhere has it’s “casual viewers”, but the format of a blog does lend itself really well to communication. And, even better, as we all like to point out regularly, this is one of the friendliest places on the internet. What’s so wonderful about blogging is how friendly everyone is- and this makes a huge difference. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it makes the reading experience so much more pleasurable (and, c’mon, it’s reading, it was already pretty darn awesome!!)

monkey typewriterBlogging also helps us writerly types to develop our craft further. Since we’re all lovers of the written word here, it stands to reason we’d enjoy reading other people’s posts and learning that way- PLUS we also get to improve our own skills every time we post. Really, it’s a win all round!!

 

mood reader 1And lastly, blogging is addictive! You’d probably have to prise our blogs from our cold dead hands 😉 Which doesn’t necessarily sound like a good thing, buuut having a blog quickly becomes a way of life. We put so much love and effort into our internet space- and that real commitment is why the blogosphere such a wonderful place to be!

 

 

 

In short, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it 😉 So do you agree? Are bloggers underrated? Let me know in the comments!

What even is YA?

thoughts orangutan

Eh- that’s a tough one.

There are all sorts of things that can go into a YA book: coming of age stories, themes around “firsts” and a heightened sense of emotion to name a few. One thing’s for certain- it has to be about *teens*. And not just people that start out as teens and then grow up, like in Assassin’s Apprentice, the protagonist should start and end a teenager for it to really fit in this category.

And I say category, because as Alexa Donne points out in her very comprehensive video on the topic, it’s more of a marketing category than a genre. Which means: anything goes. It’s the wild-west of the publishing industry these days (that ironically doesn’t put out many westerns 😉 )

Because of all this, there have been many instances of missmarketing. I could probably fill a post on the books that have somehow ended up in this category, even though they don’t belong, but here’s just a few:

Now, while a little part of me wants to be cynical and say this is a cash grab, the reality is a lot of teens enjoy this content. As a teen, I personally liked reading books that pushed boundaries and explored darker topics. I’d have most likely been insulted if you told me a book like, say the Book Thief, was technically not aimed at me and therefore off limits (and I’d have definitely read it anyway 😉 ).

Perhaps it is a reflection of this that YA has increasingly been exploring taboo topics.  For better or worse, younger readers have access to books with, dare I say, adult content. Books like A Court of Thorns and Roses is a great example of this- because it was written for adults and yet often mistaken for YA (in fact, I have never seen this book in any part of a library or shop that wasn’t the YA section!) Part of this is thanks to the failure of NA taking off (more for the industry than readers). But a larger part seems to be that the question of what’s appropriate for children has blurred beyond recognition- to the point where many can’t see the line between adult and young adult content anymore.

And while it can be a good thing that adults are buying YA- the expanding market means more books, more bookish industries and more opportunities for authors- it also means that they are the ones driving the market in this direction. Sales, after all, dramatically effect which books publishers choose to put out. This raises all sorts of issues- not least the continuing of this *I have no idea what YA even is anymore* trend.

So, with all that’s said and done, is the term becoming defunct? 

Well obviously not. As much as there have been discussions about the YA genre not doing as well last year, I don’t believe this is because the massive market that exists has gone anywhere (I have my own theories). This isn’t me saying it’s “too big to fail”- it’s merely acknowledging the fact that there will always be a market for high stake drama, with teens at the forefront, exploring the world with fresh eyes. And these are all aspects that this “genre” has in spades. It is also why adults and teens alike will continue to gravitate towards YA no matter what name you give it.

That was rather inconclusive. Looks like I did this whole post just to say who gives a monkeys about genre classifications 😉 In all seriousness, what does the term YA mean to you? Are you a fan of YA? Let me know in the comments!